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Literature / Herland

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A utopian novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman portraying a society devoid of men, and exploring the differences brought by this.


This book contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – Biology: Everyone being born from parthenogenis (aside from this being biologically impossible in humans to begin with) would make them all genetically identical-they'd be natural clones. However, this is not shown in the book, and they're distinct enough that eugenics actually can be practiced.
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  • Asexuality: The women of Herland have no concept of sexual attraction or pleasure. Additionally, they are able to reproduce through parthenogenesis, so for them sex is unnecessary.
  • Commune: Herland is one, with no private property and children raised communally from age two up.
  • Gendercide: Herland was founded in the wake of a volcanic eruption which killed most of the men, with the rest wiped out in civil war with the women.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Van presents this as the reason why Ellador cannot wrap her mind around the concept of non-reproductive sex. Terry takes a similar, albeit dimmer, view.
  • Lady Land: Herland, naturally. Theirs is a society of only women, as men died out two thousand years ago. Inexplicably, they reproduce by parthenogenesis, giving birth to girls in every case.
  • Marital Rape License: Terry firmly believes that marrying Alima means that he can "master" her at will. His Attempted Rape of her causes his eventual banishment from Herland.
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  • One-Gender Race: The story sort of fits this trope, as the inhabitants of Herland are perfectly normal human women but can somehow reproduce asexually, with only girls born.
  • Single Line of Descent: Herland's women are all descended from one women who (after their men died out) then had inexplicably given birth to a child by parthenogenesis. This mutation passed down from her daughters.
  • Truly Single Parent: All of the women in Herland reproduce by parthenogenesis, so they are "single mothers" in the most literal sense. This began when the men were killed in a disaster and then civil war, with one woman giving birth afterward by herself. All women after this are descended from her.

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